In the early stages of removable pool fence installations—more than 40 years ago—dealers, pool contractors/installers, and maintenance companies integrated ‘layback’ holes into the pool deck as a way to create an opening or entry point by way of undoing the safety catch at the top of the fencing section, lifting one pole out of the swimming pool deck, moving it aside, and parking it into a ‘layback’ hole. This was done so the fence was not left dangling.
Essentially, ‘layback’ holes are extra holes in the pool deck on the inside or outside of the pool fence system that are provided as a means for the pool owner to open the fence to gain access or entry to the pool area.
This installation method, however, creates a weak link and an unsafe pool environment as the homeowner can forget they left an opening in the fence should they become distracted with other activities. Further, extreme tension is exerted on the safety catches at the top of each section, where they connect to one another, and a pool owner may not be strong enough to apply the required force to squeeze the poles back together to replace the safety catch. In this case, more often than not, the fence is left ajar and unsecure, and the pool is left exposed. These are just two reasons why the use of ‘layback’ holes is not advocated.
Installation procedures should evolve
As with many industries and product offerings on the market today, a lack of standards exist with respect to following guidelines and proper implementation of safe ethical work practices, whether it is from the manufacturer, supplier, distributor, etc. Often, it is left up to the contractor or installer to decide, adapt, or even modify their work as they go along. In this case, one must ask themselves the following: “If a method or procedure in the workplace was used years ago, does it mean it should still be followed today? Can they be improved upon?”
The use of ‘layback’ holes is a perfect example where a procedure or method of installation has been used for years with relatively no thought as to whether it is correct or applies to today’s standards.
Ironically, this installation method is still widely used today, despite the availability of self-latching, self-closing gates. These gates, which can be locked by key, are the most important part of a removable pool fence system. And, they are the only way to ensure proper safety as it eliminates the worry of whether or not the fencing was left open.
Reasons for non-compliance
Unfortunately, there are still some removable pool fence suppliers/installers that do not offer self-latching, self-closing gates to their clients and continue to use the ‘layback’ hole installation method. Some reasons for this include:
- Gate installation is difficult to perform;
- Gates are poorly designed and do not operate as they are intended;
- Gates are downplayed due to their cost;
- Lack of proper training and experience; and
- They are not available in the product line.
Proper/improper fence installation
There are three main factors to take into consideration when installing a removable pool fence system: safety, method, and esthetics.
When considering the layout of a removable pool fence system, child safety is the top priority. Where possible, secure (i.e. separate the pool from the rest of the yard and patio area); the homeowner should not need to enter through the fence for anything other than pool activity.
Installers should consider how a child may think and/or react. Never underestimate what a child can do; therefore, every precaution must be taken to ensure the fencing system is safe and cannot be penetrated. As part of this process, take a look at the entire backyard, in addition to the pool area, and identify potential obstacles that may impede safety. For example, if a retaining wall, waterfall, decorative boulders, or elevated deck is present, consider the fact that a child can gain a height advantage when standing on these structures and, therefore, the fencing needs to be installed in a manner that prevents them from climbing or jumping over it. If there is lack of space, then the fencing system needs to be taller.
Also inspect the path the fence needs to follow to enclose the pool properly. A removable pool fence system needs to be secured to itself in the form of a total circumference installation around the whole pool or to an anchor point on each end, e.g. the house, lot line fence, etc. No spaces should be left where a child could potentially breach the fence. If there are shrubs, hedges, trees, etc., in the way then an alternate route for the fence needs to be considered. If this is not possible, the fencing has to go through these obstacles to the anchor point. Do not assume the presence of a cedar hedge or rose bush will act as a deterrent for pool entry.